Commissioners approve Convention Center hotel funding

Adjacent to the Palm Beach Co. Convention Center

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - UPDATE

A plot of county-owned land just steps from the Palm Beach County Convention Center is now the future home of a 400-room Hilton Hotel.

It's an addition that's been debated for years, one that Commissioner Karen Marcus says is long overdue.

"We should have never built the convention center if not building a hotel," she says.

But building a hotel here comes with a hefty price tag for the county.

The commission voted 4-2 today in favor of subsidizing the project with $27 million in tax dollars.

One taxpayer said during the public comment portion of Tuesday's commission meeting, "I just can't see sponsoring something we're not owners of."

Commissioners Steve Abrams and Priscilla Taylor voted against the proposal.

Taylor said, "With the economy like it is and the budget crisis we're dealing with now, I can't see us spending $27 million or committing to it until we know what the economy is going to do."

Proponents argue, the time is now.

They say construction costs are low, and local businesses are losing money because big conventions won't come here without an on-site hotel.

Some question, ‘what about other hotels in the area?'

Jeri Ann Hart, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the West Palm Beach Marriott, which is only about a half of a mile from the convention center, says she is in favor of building a hotel adjacent to the Convention Center.

"Because of the big picture. It'll not only help us to bring bigger conventions, it'll fill that hotel first, we'll be the overflow, and it'll help us in the summer months.  It'll be good for the whole city," she explains.

The developer argues that it'll also help fill tables at local restaurants as well as create more than 300 new jobs.

Commissioner Abrams asked during the meeting if there is potential for the money the county invests to be paid back, or if they could enter into a profit-sharing agreement with the developer, The Related Companies, which also developed City Place.

He was told that anything is possible at this point.

With today's vote, the project now goes into negotiations with The Related.

Commissioners say the hotel is expected to be built by 2015.

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Palm Beach County Commissioners voted today in favor of paying $27 million dollars in subsidies towards building a Hilton Hotel adjacent to the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Opponents argued, considering the budget problems the county continues to face, that this was not the right time to invest in the project.

Proponents said that the economic benefits will far surpass the initial expense and will benefit businesses throughout the county.

With today's 4-2 vote, with commissioners Abrams and Taylor voting against the proposal, and Commissioner Santamaria absent, the plan now goes to negotiations with the builder.

Commissioner Aaronson says the hotel should be completed in 2015.

 


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